San Antonio and Long Beach Wednesday Night
Transportation venues took the stage . . . oh, and was the stage, on American Idol. Note a vintage train depot/restaurant called Sunset Station in San Antonio, and the Queen Mary, a reincarnated ocean liner (now hotel) in Long Beach. Audiences were treated to a freight car load of real contestants, and a few nut cases that were adrift with half an oar in the water.
As for our esteemed judges: Niki Mantaj is now comparatively more subdued (sulking might often be the better word), but is still like a mosquito at a clown convention. You can slap at her inanities all you want, but nothing will make her go away. However, to give the little imp her due, since the big walk off she has come up with an intelligent comment or two.
Both Keith Urban and Mariah Carey seem to have real depth perception as well as technical expertise in the field of music. Keith has a sweetness and humanity about him, (not to mention being cute as a bug) that make men want to be him and women want to just melt away. I also love the emotional side of Mariah Carey, which never seems far from the surface when a song, voice, or story, touch her. I also the love the side of her that often seems to wryly and dryly poke fun at her own diva persona. However, I was more than happy Wednesday night to see the curtain fall over her over-flowing, over-exposed and over-endowed mammary glands by that lovely, softly draping, material that left only her shoulder bare. She looked classy — no longer like 20-lbs of potatoes stuffed into a 10-lb sack.
Randy Jackson remains the lynch-pin of the judges’ panel, holding together the glories of American Idol past, the reserved expectancy of American Idol present, and American Idol’s uncertain future. His is a name in the music industry whose experience and expertise make him an effective and viable judge. And he looks great this season, sporting darker and more subdued colors and some fine-looking leather jackets. Has he lost more weight, or is it just the clothes?
Some contestants who got golden tickets
The cute and personable Jesaiah Baer was this century’s teenage Shirley Temple on the Good Ship Queen Mary with her sailor togs, sassy salute, and sweet smile. And she could sing, too, once the emergency fog horn quieted and evacuees returned intact. Singing “Settle Down”, her clear, vibrant voice, came through. She gave a little taste of her scatting ability toward the end, but there was enough song to show off her singing as well as vocal ability. Though I can appreciate some scatting, I don’t like a full plate of it. That’s what show-offs do. To my untrained ear, too much in the way of vocal gymnastics has the result of the listener not being able to hear the song for the singing. (You know, like not being able to see the forest for the trees?). Scatting and runs should enhance a song, not overwhelm it.
Vincent Powell, a former contestant who held on through Hollywood Week before getting cut, returned with a vengeance with the soulful “Rock Me Baby”. His soul-singing, gospel-sounding voice won over all judges and set him back on the road to deja vu all over again. And why not. His jazzy/gospel sound came from — where else — church, where he is the music leader and a teacher. Music is literally in his DNA and he has furthered that innate ability by majoring in music education at Texas Southern University. Hopefully this time Randy will not unnerve him with a big slurpy in a plastic Coke glass.
With her last year to compete at age 29, Cristabel Clack sang “If I Ain’t Got You”, and did it her way. She could sing, and had a pleasant smokey tinge to her voice. However, I believe music runs, like scats, are fine when they make a brief impact – not pound you over the head with them. They are best left with whoever wants them wanting more, not overpowering the song. I’d like to hear her sing something plain and soulful and make a believer out of me that her voice truly channels what she feels.
The young man from Morrow, Georgia, with the speech impediment due to a mishandled tonsillectomy, blew me away with his rendition of “Chicken Fried”. The judges were no less wowed by Micah Johnson. Because of his speech impediment, no one anticipated the beautiful voice that came from him. Randy called it the best “fake-out” he’d ever seen on the show. Niki said when he was singing he was transformed. Mariah praised his transparent spirit and said that, even without his story of seemingly insurmountable odds, she would have been moved by his voice.
Matheus Fernandes proved once again that good things come in small packages. Not only did he have a different and exceptional voice for his rendition of “Change is Gonna Come”, the pain of life experiences, such as his small stature and enduring a lifetime of bullying, came through. Keith Urban was quick to pick up on that and lauded him for it. He’s a contestant to be reckoned with if he can keep his emotions in check enough to channel them through his voice. If he does, change IS gonna come.
Change will probably also come for 16-year-old Briana Oakley, who had to move because of bullying due to the fact that she once sang on a national TV show.This time she’s definitely going to move “Up to the Mountain”, which she sang with such feeling it gave me chills. Back in my day, if one of our classmates had sung on television at all, locally or nationally, she would have been a class superstar signing autographs. These days if you can’t prove to your classmates that you’re stupid or a do-nothing punk, you’re ostracized. Sheesh! Don’t get me started. Way to go, girl!!!
Adam Sander’s inauspicious and socially inept beginning caused judges to hold out little hope for his singing ability. But like a dark horse out of the starting gate, he left them open-mouthed when he opened his in a powerful and stunning rendition of “I’d Rather Be Blind”. I believe with a little help, this 19-year-old will not only make it through Hollywood Week, but go on to be a contender in the big leagues. However, he is another contestant who will need to channel his emotions through his pipes rather than his ducts. I’m rooting for him big time.
Okay, readers. Give me some feedback here. I know I missed a few good contestants. Who were your favorites and why?